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Make new friends, but keep the old: why I still love Powerpoint

I admit it: I love Powerpoint. For one thing, the version I use now is so  much for versatile and interactive than the version I learned years ago. I can embed video, audio, hyperlinks to websites, and so much more. Sometimes, when I need a concentrated way to introduce a new topic or genre to a class, a Powerpoint slide show can help me a great deal–and I can archive it on my course Blackboard for students who missed class and/or who need to go back and consult it for review purposes. Over the years, I’ve made slide shows to introduce topics in all of my courses. Just this week, I used one to lecture on the experience of ancient Greek theater and Aristotle’s Ars Poetica. I’m using one to play a game with my 9th graders next week, which will help them learn about academic honesty. I have slide shows for introducing Film Noir, Horror Films, John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, theories about reading the body as a text, and so much more.

One of my colleagues designed a fantastic assignment a couple of years ago–and because my department shares, I use it, too. When teaching a novel from a specific era, he’ll assign each kid in class one narrowly-defined research topic. Each student must make just one really well-designed slide (and a works cited). The slide is deposited into a class powerpoint (using a shared folder on our server, but google.docs works, too). Then in the course of one class period, we can cover about 20 different topics. Students just have two or three minutes to present. It’s so fun!  Everyone participates, and the shy ones can do it from their seats in a darkened room! My students just presented on the 1920’s to contextualize The Great Gatsby. They had gorgeous slides on topics like “crazy pastimes of the 1920’s” (gold fish swallowing, flagpole sitting, marathon dancing….), advertising, cars, interior design, fashion, organized crime, etc. My favorite was on popular dances. The student used animation schemes to layer images; he also connected his slide to an amazing youtube video montage of the Charleston–real footage from the era. It was magical!

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One Response to “Make new friends, but keep the old: why I still love Powerpoint”

  1. While I have to say most PowerPoints put me to sleep, I don’t think it is because of the media. Instead, I don’t think people have a good command of the tool. Many seem to think the more words you can cram on the slide, the better the presentation. In my opinion, the opposite is true.

    Given how much time and effort it takes to craft a well-designed slide, I would be hesitant to change tools if I had a lot of content already in PowerPoint.

    Have you checked out Prezi yet?


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